Monday, May 06, 2013

courage: living under the bomb

Courage 050513
Acts 16:9-15; John 14:23-29
Peace I give you                                                                                                                   my peace                                                                                                                     not peace like the world gives                                                                                         do not be afraid
Do not be afraid?  Are you kidding, Jesus?  Peace is tenuous at best, often fought over, usually involving violence…do not be afraid?                                                     
 Many of us live in fear much of the time,  lurking just below the surface of our usually safe and sedate suburban lives,                                                                                                                                        a dis-ease infected by violence and spread by media hype.
As Thomas Merton once wrote in “Day of a Stranger”                                                  the hills are blue and hot; there is a brown, dusty field in the bottom of the valley.  I hear a machine, a bird, a clock. The clouds are high and enormous. In them, the inevitable jet plane passes: this time probably full of fat passengers from Miami to Chicago, but presently it will be a plan with a bomb in it.  I have seen the plane with the bomb fly low over me and I have looked up out of the woods directly at the closed bay.  Like everyone else I live under the bomb.

We live under the bomb, or the bombing, or the threat, or the uncertainty.
Our own building’s security came up because of this barely buried fear, so CC invited Police Chief Maureen Chisholm to come and talk to us, and we did learn of some simple, maybe inconvenient precautions we could take to make us feel safer.  But she said, You’re a church, you have to make choices because what you choose says something about who you are.
Yes we will take sensible precautions. But I tell you who we are: we are people who must not bow to the cultural climate of fear; we bow to too many cultural idols as it is.  We are people of Christ’s peace, and we will not be ruled by fear.
You see, we didn’t really hear what Jesus was saying, we missed the bit about not like the world’s peace
Peace I give you                                                                                                           deep peace                                                                                                                   deep down peace                                                                                                         deep down to the soles of your feet 
deep in to the soul of your being peace

This is the holy, inner peace that only God offers, a peace within the deepest place, a peace we open ourselves to, and actively develop with deliberate practices, like worship, prayer, meditation, holy conversations in community that grow us into who God calls us to be.

It’s the peace I am finding in the practices and attitudes of Benedictine spirituality, or that others find in centering prayer for example…..peace that keeps us centred in a society torn apart by random and state-sponsored  violence.

There is a group that uses our facility, called “Courage to Change”—what a great name!  Change does take courage, and as we go through a time of uncertainty, that’s what we need.
I choose-we can choose- not to live under the bomb, but under the Peace.

It is that peace that gives us courage instead of fear…the courage of Paul in our first reading that was inspired by his visionary experiences that were so much a part of Jewish mysticism in his day….    courage to go,                                                            courage to leave the comfort of his life of rigid certainty,                                                                               
 courage to re-imagine his deeply held beliefs into something new called Christianity

Through practicing paying attention to God’s various ways of communicating, through his mystical experiences, Paul had in a sense heard Jesus say
Peace…not like the worlds peace…do not be afraid
And that’s where we will get the courage                                                                        to go where God calls,                                                                                            courage to leave our comfort zones and try a new ministry,                                  courage to risk giving a little more so we can have a second   pastor,                                                                                                                                    courage to go deeper into our relationship with God with a new spiritual practice…..
Peace…not like the worlds peace…do not be afraid
It is also that peace that gave courage to Lydia—well-to-do businesswoman  for whom work and worship were not enough:                                                                              the courage to believe something new,                                                                         and the courage to invite others into her space 

Through the practice of listening, listening carefully the story says, she assumes God is still speaking (do we?)
Through the act of baptism, a physical, public sign of her faith, she was empowered, en-couraged to invite them to stay, offering hospitality to a stranger
Lydia had, in a sense, heard Jesus say
Peace…not like the worlds peace…do not be afraid

And that’s where we’ll get the courage to invite a stranger, speak to someone new, risk hospitality

And so it was for those first disciples:
The challenge Jesus gives them, even  before he offers the peace: love one another – a challenge because this is not love as the world generally knows it either…                                                                                                                          not love those who’re like us but not “them”  (Chris’ sermon last week)                                                                                                                               but love as God loves us

Last weekend at the Project Urge conference some young people had t shirts that said
Love God Love people
no difference, no exceptions
Love as in love your neighbor whose name might be Joe Smith or  Dzhokar Tsarnaev
Now THAT takes courage, because it’s completely counter-cultural and won’t make you popular.
But Christianity isn’t about popular, its about peace
deep peace                                                                                                                      deep down peace                                                                                                             deep down to the soles of your feet and in to the soul of your being peace
And it’s the only place we are going to get that kind of courage to love,                                                                  courage to change,                                                                 courage in the uncertainty and fear,                                     courage to invite others, maybe quite different, into our space.

Listen, listen carefully, like Lydia,hear Jesus say it to you
Peace…not like the worlds peace…do not be afraid 

Following communion, you will be offered  a blessing of peace—just hold out your hands, palms up and someone will place their hands on yours with these words Peace……do not be afraid